It’s the penultimate episode and Marvel slow the pace down so they can get all their ducks in a row to set up the finale. Some plot threads appears to be wrapped up and others finally move in a direction it was assumed they would. Plus we get introduced to a new character that could have a major impact on he MCU for years to come.
The episode starts with a surprising quick wrap up to the shock events of the previous one. John Walker (Wyatt Russell), the new Cap, is on the run. He is troubled by what he has done but firmly believes, although in some ways lying to himself, that he was in right. Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) confront him and try to talk him down but when Sam asks for the shield Walker’s paranoia kicks in. From the outset he has questioned whether he his good enough to be Captain America and he feels that Sam just wants the shield for himself. A fit ensues and finally we get to see Sam and Bucky working as a team to take Walker down. Sam gets the shield but his Falcon wings are destroyed and he gives them to Joaquin Torres.
Back in America, Walker is up in front of a military hearing straight away. He is stripped of everything and discharged from the army without chance for appeal. Again he shows his anger, driven by his own shelf belief, and reveals his true colours to the courtroom.
It’s outside the court, while Walker is reflecting on what has happened with his wife, that we get the big Marvel character first appearance that had be promised. Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine enters the MCU, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and tells Walker that there are people who need a man like him and the best thing he could do is answer when she calls.
This will be another test for Marvel to see if they can control toxicity in there fandom. After being burnt by teasing non existent cameos in ‘WandaVision’ they have promoted the first appearance of a big character here. While the Contessa is a decades old character there is little recognition outside of the comicbooks. This is sure to cause aggravation on the Internet because it wasn’t one of the characters that had been speculated. It doesn’t help that Louis-Dreyfus plays it like see is in a 90s comicbook film.
The show then digs deep into the race issues in America. Having touched on it early in the series they now pick it up again when Sam returns to visit Isaiah Bradley. Bradley’s treatment by the US government is an allegory for the Tuskegee study and neglect of black war heroes. He is a broken man and lost his faith in the world. Sam is looking for guidance and approval by Isaiah has none left to give. He has faked his own death for a peaceful life and that’s how he wants to live out his days.
In Europe the Zemo plot line appears to end really easily. Having gone on the run in the last episode he turns up at the memorial in Sokovia. Bucky is waiting there for him along with the Dora Milaje. Zemo tells Bucky that there is only one way to stop Karli Morganthau but it does feel like we have been short changed on Zemo action. The Dora Milaje take Zemo into custody and Bucky asks them for a final favour.
Sam returns to the family home and gets his ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ moment. The fishing business that he and his sister inherited is on it’s last legs and it looks like this is the end of the line for them. Then the whole community come together to help out and repay all the favours that Sam and his family have done for them over the years. This is the start of the motivation that Sam needs, if he can be the figurehead for the community he can be more than that. Bucky arrives with a gift from the Wakandans and the pair start to bond. While playing catch with the shield the pair work out their differences and start the process of healing their lives. Sam convinces Bucky that he actual has to make amends for the lives that he took when he was the Winter Soldier while Bucky makes it clear to Sam that he is worthy of the shield. It then goes full Rocky montage as Sam beings his training.
The Flag Smasher plot stays in the background until the end. They hire Batroc, who has a grudge against Sam, to help with their cause. It is revealed that they are now in New York and are about to launch an attack on the international meeting to decide what to do with displaced people. Fortunately, Sam is also in New York with the box that Bucky gave him. We then get the first end credit scene of the series as we see John Walker building his own shield.
Everything has now been put in place to set up an all action finale. Predictions: The Wakandans have made Sam a vibranium Cap suit, Torres aids him as the new Falcon, along with Bucky they take down the Flag Smashers and Sam takes Karli in alive. Walker tries to assassinate Karli and Sam has to take him down. Hopefully, as a bonus, the Contessa, Zemo, and Walker form The Thunderbolts.